By Gabriel Olawale
The State Team Leader, Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative 2, Dr Omasanjuwa Edun has said that its dangerous to deny adolescent and youths rights to reproductive health, noting that the decisions they make go a long way to form the kind of adults they would be in the future.
Speaking during the 2019 International Youth Day celebration in Lagos, Edun said that discussion around adolescent reproductive health have been on for a while but nothing really significant has being done to address them.
“When it comes to sexual and reproductive health rights for young persons in Nigeria, it is often misconstrued, misunderstood, and subsequently misprioritized. The sheer sensitive nature of the issues means it is often swept under the carpet when it is raised, and in most cases treated with kids gloves, with lots of promises but never any really action.
He regretted that young person’s have not being empowered enough to understand that this is their right, and thus they need to demand for it.
“Youth have been so coaxed and brainwashed into thinking, these rights are only for older and married people. However, we forget that the decisions they make as adolescent goes a long way to form the kind of adults they would be in the future.
“Second, for those who dare to seek or demand services, they chastised, ridiculed and often stigmatized for their boldness. A young person visits a clinic for services, and ends up getting a religious sermon on the sins of immorality.
“Also, perceived gender norms, what boys and girls are meant to do or not meant to do as dictated by society have also been identified as challenges denying youth of services. Girls are often at the receiving end of this. Young girls are often seen as promiscuous and immoral, especially if unmarried.
“Another major challenge is negative attitude and behavior of service providers, which makes many youth to never return or refer their peers for services. The cost of accessing service is another challenge to youth. Often times, these youth are not financially empowered to afford services, be it cost of transportation to service point, or cost of actual service itself.
“This is particularly worse for children out of school, street traders, and children with parents or guardians. The vulnerable suffer the most.
Edun said that weak government policies, poor enforcement of existing policies, state of service points and dearth of service providers all contribute to denying youth access to services.
“Most government public health facilities in the country lack proper and adequate infrastructure to provide good quality services. There are often issues of visual and auditory privacy, and confidentiality concerns.
“There is also a poor linkage between service delivery activities and community support to aims to build trust and confidence. Overall, there is lack of strong political will to drive matters concerning youth’s health in the country. According to China Achebe, when the center cannot hold, things are bound to fail and fall apart.
He however called for improved political will and commitment towards adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, AYSRH.
“Strengthen education curricula on sexual and reproductive health education. Train and re-train service providers to provide youth friendly services in all wards. Upgrade health facilities to provide services at optimal internationally recognized standards.